22 posts in this topic

Good morning,

Just an update for those who are interested. I am posting this for anyone who might end up in a similar situation.

I went to the US in January to activate my GC.

I went on a cruise with some friends. After we docked back in Miami, the border control officers  did not acknowledge my stamped GC. They were clearly not informed of the DV stamp or DV process and asked for supporting documentation (which I did not have with me because I did not deem it necessary). 

Take note that I activated my visa just before the 6 month expiry date and while I was travelling in the US it expired. Therefore at the cruise ship border control, they thought that I was travelling on an expired visa. I was extremely stressed because from all the information which I gathered upfront on this forum and on the travel.state.gov website I knew that I could travel with the stamped DV visa for 1 year.

I tried my best to explain and talk my way out of it but the officers did not want to listen to me (and they were really rude - treated me like a criminal). I was kept in a back room with a few chairs and two other officers who were working on computers.  After waiting for almost 30 minutes an officer called me and asked me if I knew that I was travelling on an expired visa. I had to answer "yes" and tried to explain that I won the GC lottery and got the stamp from USCBP (Border Security) when I entered Atlanta Airport and activated my GC. I also explained that I could travel with the DV stamped visa for one year. His reply was "Sorry but we are Border Security and we would know if this is a valid visa." I could not see how I would get out of this situation - it was hopeless.

A fourth officer (who was also working on a computer and reading a newspaper) came over after a while. Side note - this officer was also previously involved when I entered the back room and said "You just thought you would take a chance and go on a cruise and expect us to let you back into the country..."

He looked at my passport/visa while I was trying to explain yet again about the GC being activated prior to the expiry date, being stamped and being valid for one year of travel.

He looked at me, looked at the passport/visa again, looked at the officer next to him and just said "He's good." He handed back the document and went back to reading his newspaper.

With that he meant "Good to go". The officer I was speaking to looked at me, gave me my passport and said "Exit through the door at the back", without looking at me any further or apologising. Nothing.

I left the room extremely rattled but thankful for getting out.

What I took from this experience is that everyone at Border Security does not deal with the GC process, especially the DV lottery visas. I think it is due to the fact that people on DV visas mostly enter and exit via airports and not port of entry at sea.

Regards,

G

Edited by Gieds
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Wow, sorry you had to go through this. The officers at cruise ports are clearly less experienced than at airports.

There is no difference (in terms of what you describe) between a diversity visa and any other type of immigrant visa. It's true that the original visa "expired" (because an immigrant visa is one time use only) but the crucial point is the text at the bottom of the visa about it becoming a temporary I551 once endorsed - and even the most inexperienced border officer will know what an I551 is. So you weren't traveling on an expired visa, you were traveling on a temporary green card. I've heard about airline personnel not understanding about endorsed immigrant visas but this is the first time I've ever heard about a US CBP officer who doesn't understand it. For anyone else caught in this situation, just make sure you point out the text at the bottom of the visa. Although I can imagine how scary it is to be subjected to that type of questioning...

 

Edited by SJ272

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BCP are really bad at cruise ports!! We went on a cruise to the Bahama's sometime around 2007 while living in Florida on an L1A & L2 visa.

This was shortly after they had changed the L2 visa to a "entitled to work visa" and, on re-entering at Ft Lauderdale the BCP officer kept trying to trick my wife into admitting she was working. Now she was not but even if she was it was now totally legal and he had obviously never heard of that!!!

In any event he was a rude SOB and my wife eventually (To my horror) gave him what for and suggested he learn his job before trying to scare and intimidate law abiding folk and that should he not let her in and do so right now she would take it up with his superior and so on up the line until he "got it".

He let us in but what an arrogant mother he was! Really wanted to manually adjust his attitude!!

Never had this problem at an airport - just cruise ports.

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Good afternoon,

 

This will probably be one of the last updates regarding my journey.

I entered the USA early in July 2017. I settled in Louisiana and I am enjoying and loving every moment so far.

I was back in SA for less than 6 months since I left the USA earlier this year during the trip I took to activate my visa - my timelines and planning worked out pretty good, which I am very grateful for.

I've gone through the entire process now; from winning in the DV Lottery in May 2015 (DV2016) on a first time entry (October 2014) until actually moving.

According to the numbers published I am one of just a few people who actually pursued it and made the move in the end. If you need assistance regarding relevant questions. Feel free to ask me.

 

Just a heads up for those who are planning to travel on the DV Visa after it has expired and you just have the stamp which allows travel for up to a year:

I had a very hard time to travel with "an expired visa" - every time I went through security I was held one side to be scrutinized for the expired visa and higher security / immigration personnel were called every time.

This happened at Johannesburg (OR Tambo) and Frankfurt airports. You need to get your story straight and have patience with the personnel because they do not work with DV visa regularly, especially expired ones.

 

Regards,

G

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On that last bit, I think it's important to emphasize you are NOT traveling on an expired visa - you are traveling on a temporary green card, as evidenced by the wording at the bottom of the visa in small print. Incidentally this is for any immigrant visa, not just DV. It may help people using this if they print out page 40 of the CBP manual for airlines https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Carrier Information Guide- English.pdf and take it with to properly show this to airline personnel. Certainly people from countries with low rates of immigration to the US will often encounter personnel who don't recognize it. (I had to explain it at OR Tambo too, but had no problem using it in London.) And referring to it as an expired visa rather than a temporary green card/re-entry document can only confuse the matter.

 

Glad to hear you've settled in well, and best of luck for the future.

Edited by SJ272

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Thank you for the well wishes SJ272.

Please take note of my inverted commas around "expired visa". I never referred to the document as expired at the airports - the personnel did.

I did show them the line at the bottom of the visa: "UPON ENDORSEMENT SERVES AS TEMPORARY I-155 EVIDENCING PERMANENT RESIDENCE FOR 1 YEAR".

It did not help me to show them that, they still had to call someone and get it sorted which took extra time.

I agree with your advise to take a copy of that page in the booklet with - although I still do not think they will take it as acceptable before calling someone who really understands this type of visa..

 

My advise to others are to take note of this issue and to allow extra travel and layover time because this might delay your plans by a few minutes to up to an hour or two.

I am just referring to my own experience.

 

Regards,

G

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The "booklet" I referred to is the official US government manual that the airlines are supposed to refer to.

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